Friday’s Astronomical Society ‘star party’ a chance to view Jupiter

Fate is “written in the stars,” lovers are “starry-eyed” and people sometimes thank their “lucky stars.” The twinkling lights in the night sky have captivated humanity since the beginning of time and filled society’s language with a plethora of star-related idioms.

Members of the Island County Astronomical Society are among the captivated, and they hope to share their interest and knowledge with others.

“I like looking at galaxies, but that’s just me,” said Bob Scott, president of the Island County Astronomical Society.

The group schedules 11 “star parties” throughout the year, but that often dwindles down to four or five that actually happen due to weather, he said. The star parties give the public an opportunity to use the group’s telescopes to learn more about outer space.

The next star party is scheduled for 6:30 p.m., Friday, March 1 at Fort Nugent Park in Oak Harbor, weather permitting.

“(The party) usually starts right after dusk. If the moon is out we’ll show a bunch of stuff on the moon,” Scott, said. “If the moon isn’t out, we’ll show nebulas, galaxies, all kinds of things. Planetary nebula. There’s lots of neat things to see. “

Jupiter will be visible Friday as the others won’t be up, he said.

Viewers will be able to see the bands on Jupiter, plus the Galilean moon.

The attendance at the club’s star parties ranges wildly. A showing of 40 to 50 people is a good number for them, Scott said, but they can see as few as five to 10 people.

And it’s all ages — there is a stepladder for the smaller children, as well as “adults who are vertically challenged,” Scott said.

The group uses green laser pointers to help viewers look in the right direction for notable stars and planets or to trace a constellation. A green laser is superior to red because it reflects back dust particles and water vapor so observers can see the beam as it extends out, Scott said.

“They’re really wonderful for sky tours,” Scott said. “Before laser pointers, you’d be pointing up to the sky with your fingers.”

Scott wasn’t always a astronomical expert. He got interested in the heavens in 2000, after a lunar eclipse viewing where he wondered what two bright objects in the sky where .

“I wondered what those are,” he said. He realized they were Jupiter and Saturn.

“I told my told wife for my 50th birthday that I wanted a telescope,” he said.

Four telescopes later, he’s now the president of the Island County Astronomical Society and a certified “master observer” of the Astronomical League.

In addition to star parties, the club also has monthly meetings. The first half of the meeting is an educational presentation or two, and the second half is the group’s business meeting.

The public is welcome to attend the meetings, though people usually just stick around for the first half. At the next meeting at 6:30 p.m., March 19 at the Heller Road fire station, the group will be giving a talk on how to improve observational techniques. In the past, a popular topic has been how to sketch celestial bodies viewed through a telescope.

The group has around 20 members, with some residing out of state.

“We’re just a group of amateur astronomers who like to look at the stars,” Scott said.

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  • For information, visit the ICAS website at www.icas-wa.org

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